This was as much a thunderous meeting of almost mythically strong beasts as it was a football match. Those players who realised the nature of the battle before them and were prepared to leave all feelings of entitlement and superiority in the changing room fared best. Rarely has the cliche about earning your right to play seemed more apposite.
Winning your personal battle was the first priority and so many of ours did that that the result seems inevitable on reflection. How did people ever believe that a midfield of Matic and Kante, the ‘engine’ behind Chelsea’s 13 game winning run might live with Wanyama and Dembélé in this form? Well they didn’t, to the extent that Kante was substituted well before the end.
Wanyama in particular was magnificent. He missed May’s Battle of Stamford Bridge of course but he ignored the below the surface simmering tension that I’m sure affected many of those on the pitch and recognised the importance of remaining composed whilst winning his physical encounters. He seemed to take his relatively early booking as a challenge and continued to be immaculate in his defence of the back three. Dembélé scrapped alongside him and also brought the ball forward to supplement the excellent Eriksen as he attempted to supply bullets for Alli and Kane along with the marauding Walker and Rose.
And talking of our erstwhile wing-backs, the comparison between them and the much lauded but completely hapless Alonso and Moses could not have been more stark. The latter two were side plates to the main meal taking place around them, only Pedro was more anonymous. Much had been made of the duels between Rose and Moses and Walker and Alonso, they were one-sided affairs though.
Chelsea were toothless virtually throughout with Hazard making a mess of the only two chances created. Costa fought a lone battle unless you count the Much Waving of The Arms quarrel he had with Pedro after a failed counter-attack as a team affair.
Moses most effective contribution was to play Alli onside as Dele gave us the lead with his sublime header from Eriksen’s cross. He was also closest to the same player as he headed in his second; this time Alli had peeled off the back of Azpilicueta and was brilliantly found by the Dane once again.
Chelsea huffed and puffed during the remaining half an hour but we were untroubled despite us sitting back deeper and deeper and the league leaders more expansive attitude. It was very noticeable how we abandoned the carefully play it out from the back policy in favour of the hoof during the last period of the game, it worked though as we were able to close out the win without Lloris being troubled. Not once. Anxiety levels for this sort of game are normally up to 11, last night though they rarely hit more than 6.
Last but not least a mention for the three at the back who were awesome from start to finish. They were constantly under pressure both from the Chelsea pressing and Hugo’s wayward distribution but were admirably secure. They dominated physically and once it became clear that Martin Atkinson wasn’t going to buy anything from Costa, the latter struggled to make an impact.
So, Big Game Syndrome didn’t strike, instead we rose to the challenge and looked like we’re ready for more. May it be the first of many.
Villa in the cup and then West Brom. 1-1 anyone?
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